British Columbia

B.C. backs off on flu-shot policy for nurses

The B.C. government has backed down on forcing nurses to wear masks and stickers if they're not vaccinated against the flu, their union says.

Union declares victory in dispute; government suggests it's a 1-year reprieve

The nurses union says there is conflciting evidence about the effectiveness of flu shots (CBC)

The union representing B.C.'s nurses says members won't be forced to wear masks and stickers if they're not vaccinated against the flu.

The province's health officer Dr. Perry Kendall announced the policy in August, arguing low vaccination rates among health professionals were putting patients at risk.

But the British Columbia Nurses Union says the provincial government has backed off on the policy following a "strong public campaign" by members.

"We welcome this decision by the Ministry of Health," said BC Nurses’ Union president Debra McPherson. "We have always encouraged our members to get a flu shot because it is the best preventative measure available. However, we consider the decision on whether or not to get a shot a personal one."

McPherson also said that there is conflicting evidence about the effectiveness of the shot.

The union said the provincial government will provide nurses with more information about the value of immunization and provide on-site flu clinics for members.

Government qualifies decision

It says the government will also work with unions and employers to determine the best way to increase vaccination rates.

In November, a doctor with the U.K.-based Cochrane Collaboration publicly questioned the evidence used to justify the mandatory flu-shot policy.

A B.C. Health Ministry spokesman said, however, that the suspension of enforcement of the vaccinations-or-masks regulation is only temporary.

"Health authorities will be taking a balanced and measured approach in the first year of this policy and will not be disciplining employees," said Ryan Jabs in an email to CBC News.

Jabs said this approach, "ensures that the province and health authorities will continue to work with labour groups to address concerns they may have in this transitional first year of implementation."